While the most obvious flaw of Devo's Duty Now for the Future is that the material simply isn't as good as on their debut, their second album also captures the group in the midst of a significant stylistic shift. On their first album, for all their herky-jerky rhythms and electronic accents, Devo were pretty much a standard guitars/bass/drums rock band, albeit one with more than their share of eccentricities. Duty Now for the Future found them bringing the keyboards that were used as punctuation on their earlier material into the forefront, adding a new level of irony to their "little minds through big technology" philosophy. While Devo would later learn to use electronics with confidence and wit, they were still learning how to integrate them into their sound on Duty Now, and the results lacked the strength and coherence of their debut. Of course, it also helped that the first album had better songs; the two instrumentals on side one are merely filler, "Pink Pussycat" and "Clockout" are jokes that just aren't funny, and "Triumph of the Will" embraces fascism as a satirical target without bothering to make it sound as if they disapprove. But "Secret Agent Man" is a wittier devolved cover than "Satisfaction," the band rarely sounded as cheerfully creepy as on "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize," and the side two rave up, "Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA" is superbly potent (for all their progressive trappings, Devo were formalists enough to know you make a big rock move near the end of side two.) Duty Now for the Future is hardly a bad album, but it isn't as strong as what Devo had already brought to the table -- or would offer later on.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming